Saturday, July 17, 2004

Godzilla: The Series

It's a measure of how bad Centropolis's Godzilla (1998) was in that a Saturday morning cartoon surpassed it. I got to thinking about Godzilla: The Series when I heard that the Monster Wars Trilogy -- a three-part episode of the cartoon -- will be released in August. I taped a number of episodes, including those three, back when it was on, so I went back and watched.
The cartoon takes off from the ending of the movie. The original Godzilla is dead. A baby has been born from its egg. Somehow (I don't have the first episode on tape) the baby sees Nick Tatopoulos (the character played by Matthew Broderick in the movie) as its mother. Nick creates H.E.A.T. (Humanitarian Ecological Analysis Team (where giant monster or mutation is in that name, I have no idea)) to investigate the mutations, like Godzilla, forming all over the world. With him on this team are two minor characters from the movie: Dr. Mendel Craven, a dumpy, allergic joke who only has half-a-minute in the movie; and Dr. Elsie Chapman, the wise cracking scientist played by that
redhead from Newsradio.
They are joined by a protege of Jean Reno's character, Monique Dupre, a member of the French secret service, and Randy Hernandez, the token black character who has a Spanish(?) accent and is a master computer hacker. Craven also has a robot, Nigel, which, like Kenny on
South Park, gets blown up at least once every episode.
Other characters from the movie make occasional guest appearances. Audrey Timmonds, the girl reporter played by
Maria Pitillo in the movie, turns up in two episodes, one with Animal. Animal was odd since he was played by well known voice actor Hank Azaria in the movie. In the show, his voice is done by Joe Pantaliano. The Army general also shows up a few times.
Nick's character changes radically from the movie, where he was a schlebby scientist who just happens to have all the right answers for what's happening to Godzilla. In the series, it's as if he was played by
Dylan McDermott's character in The Practice. He's a strong-minded leader with all the right answers.
H.E.A.T. headquarters are on
Staten Island. Godzilla hangs out in the bay. The team spends most of its time on its boat, a fast little number with a shark's head drawn on the front. Actually, I think the boat may have been an homage to the Hanna-Barbera Godzilla cartoon, which also featured a team of characters who worked on a boat and could call for Godzilla using a button on the ship.
Godzilla follows the H.E.A.T. team wherever they go. It doesn't matter if they travel the globe or take airplanes instead of ships, he's always right there to show up in the nick of time. When they need him, they can call him using Nigel.
So the show is basically set up on the premise of a new bad monster every week. H.E.A.T. faces a giant worm in Central America, giant hot-headed mole creatures in the Antarctic, a weird electric creature in New York City and a group of aliens determined to take over the world using giant monsters.
This being a Saturday morning cartoon series, there's lots of leaps in logic and one-note characterization. But the series is still better written than the movie. In fact, one episode copies the stupid love story between Nick and Audrey and how she betrays him by using information he told her in private. Dumb in the movie and no better here.
The Monster Wars Trilogy isn't bad. It brings back a lot of the monsters from the series up to that point and adds the best of all: the movie's Godzilla suited up in cyborg armor. Also, the mind controlling aliens look pretty neat.
The plot has ridiculous moments. Nick and Craven want to get into an Army base. They state that there's no way they can get inside. So they send in a little robot eye to find out what's going on. They realize Elsie is in trouble, so they go inside to save her. Umm, how were they able to get inside the impregnable base? Don't ask, the show isn't telling. Also, the aliens have many chances to shoot the H.E.A.T. team, but never seem to manage it. Why is that? But if you can overlook such absurdities, there's a lot of fun to be had.
And occasionally the show picked up some good help. Len Wein wrote a good story about an electrical creature (the Crackler) that starts tearing apart New York.
Wein is a great comic book scripter who created Swamp Thing. He also edited the fantastic Alan Moore comic book series Watchmen.
Another comic book great,
Marv Wolfman, also came along for the ride. Wolfman was the creator of Blade among hundreds of other characters.
So I give a thumbs up to the Monster Wars Trilogy. It's a good, fun time. It's certainly not a masterpiece of plotting, but then the movie it's based off was worse.
Pick it up and hopefully the whole series will be released. Apparently, there are a few unaired episodes that could be added to a complete DVD series.

1 comment:

Ted said...

I had seen all the Godzilla series. I am seriously a very big fan Of the Godzilla which is the King of Monsters. So I started collecting many Godzilla Toys, since it remains a fun.